13-year-old charged with grand theft auto for the second time

OKEECHOBEE — A 13-year-old boy was charged with grand theft after reportedly taking his mother’s car. At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Cauley responded to a call from the boy’s mother who told him her son, Wyatt Baumhardt, had taken the car around 11 p.m. the night before. She said he had not returned home or returned the vehicle, and she wanted to report her Dodge Ram stolen. In addition, she was concerned something might have happened to him and wanted to file a missing person’s report. She gave Deputy Cauley his cellphone number, and he was able to have dispatch ping his phone. Dispatch informed Deputy Cauley Baumhardt the boy was at Dollar General on U.S. 441 Southeast.

Deputy Cauley drove to the Dollar General and found the boy asleep on the front seat of the truck. He knocked several times on the window to wake him up. When he woke up, Deputy Cauley had him step out of the vehicle and then placed him under arrest for grand theft auto. He attempted to question Baumhardt, but he refused to answer any questions.

When his mother arrived on the scene to retrieve her vehicle, she said she still wished to pursue charges because she wanted her son to be taught a lesson, and she felt he deserved to be punished for what he did.

Last week’s was not Baumhardt’s first grand theft auto charge, as he was arrested in May 2017, at the age of 10, after he allegedly stole a pickup truck and drove it at speeds up to 100 mph before losing control and running it into a ditch in Martin County. Neither he nor the 12-year-old girl with him was seriously injured in the accident, although the girl did hit her head on the ceiling of the truck’s cab according to OCSO Deputy Devon Satallante’s arrest report. At that time, he was charged with grand theft, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license. According to Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright, Baumhardt went through a juvenile diversion program in 2017.

According to Sheriff Noel E. Stephen, Baumhardt has been in trouble numerous times since he was very young. Based on the deputy’s report, said Sheriff Stephen, the mother seemed to feel it was time to do something to get her son’s attention. He said young kids have stolen vehicles in Okeechobee before, and parents have pressed charges before. Whether it helps or not all depends on the individual and on the parents.

“Sometimes we have young people that commit crimes that are given alternate charges, maybe the option for juvenile referrals or civil citation, and the parents don’t want to be bothered to take the kid to do community service hours. They just say, ‘Take them and put them in jail.’ I have had parents of teens in my office before on a civil citation which is a deterrent so the child doesn’t have any record, but they are held accountable for the crime they committed, and they have to apologize and write essays, and do some community service hours to make them understand what they have done and the consequences, and the parents don’t want anything to do with it, because it’s bothersome to them to have to run them to and fro. I’ve even offered to go pick them up if there is a problem. It’s a scary sign of where our society is today. There is little to no accountability or repercussions at home or even in society after they are caught. There are no consequences. So, what lesson is being learned by our young ones other than to continue to commit crimes and go to jail? I think that’s why today I am seeing second and third generations coming to jail from the same families, because that acceptance and tolerance with some is different. We have to try to break those trends somehow, some way, ” he said.

It is difficult for most people to imagine a mother having her own child arrested and charged with a felony, but what are her options when her child is getting out of hand, and no matter what she does at home, nothing seems to work? What would you do?

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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